The real reason Netflix keeps canceling your favorite shows

Spinning around the void: Netflix's 1899 - Netflix

Spinning around the void: Netflix’s 1899 – Netflix

Netflix was supposed to be a big hit before Christmas, but weeks after its launch, 1899’s numbers spiked. The mind-blowing multi-dimensional thriller was canceled with just one season – resulting in predictable protests from the small, albeit vocal fanbase, and the inevitable online petition to bring it back.

The show’s failure is a surprise on many levels. It was the brainchild of Netflix’s gold team, Jantje Friese, and Baran bo Odar, the German couple behind the slow-burning Dark. This series garnered millions of views when pesky kids investigating a supernatural conspiracy took the Stranger Things formula and swaddled it in Germanic gloom.

Friese and Odar seemed to have arrived at something even more certain in 1899. There was the atmospheric setting of Kerberos, a 19th-century ocean liner filled with the crew of a rogue gallery of heroes, villains, and miscellaneous disgruntled. Plus, as teased in the trailers, it’s a dimension-hopping mystery that apparently includes time travel and – which is always a good thing – a scary kid. On paper, it looks like Titanic meets Downton Abbey via JJ Abrams’ Lost. With a budget of $60 million, it was also the most expensive German TV project of all time, providing generous production values. What could go wrong?

A lot, it turned out. While Odar recently announced that 1899 was canceled—he and Friese’s overall deal with Netflix remain— Netflix apparently broke the news to the producers in December, four weeks after 1899 began. Having a $60 million gamble wiped out after a month sounds like an overreaction. At that time, Netflix was never a company to go to the ceremony.

On the face of it, 1899 was a reasonably sized hit. That’s right, it lagged far behind Netflix’s true November surprise Wednesday—the Addams Family spinoff that revived Tim Burton’s career, made Jenna Ortega a superstar, and introduced Gen Z to the radical concept of wearing black in public. Still, Friese and Odar’s spooky puzzle box has been watched millions of times and debuted at number two on Netflix’s global top 10 chart.

But given the budget and expectations, it didn’t do well enough. He also suffered bad word of mouth. While 1899 had its fair share of surprises, which resulted in a satisfyingly grisly win in the final episode, many viewers may have felt like they’d seen it all before. (Warning: spoilers follow.)

We were promised a period letter full of secrets. Yet by the end of the first episode it was clear that Kerberos was just a computer simulation. And that the whole story is a glorified episode of Charlie Brooker’s Black Mirror. Nobody was what they seemed. In reality the glitches were the work of dystopian hosts squeaking and groaning behind the scenes. In other words, Charlie Brooker with a German accent.

Once you get this done – and who hasn’t? – everything that followed felt like filler. 1899 is further hampered by the traditional Netflix problem of spreading too much content too thin. From the troublesome House of Cards ten years ago to the latest Harry and Meghan documentary, Netflix has made it an art to stuff your television with filler. 1899 suffered worse than most – and unlike Harry and Meghan, it couldn’t reconcile you with the intriguing anecdotal promise of Harry having a shout match with Prince William.

1899 of Netflix - Netflix

1899 of Netflix – Netflix

The array was also cold to the touch. Emily Beecham did her best as Maura, a neurologist who claims to have traveled to America alone but is actually searching for her missing brother. Anton Lesser as Henry Singleton, Maura’s father and the eerie owner of Kerberos.

Unfortunately, neither scored very highly for likability. Neither did the rest of the characters. They were a nasty mess of socialites from all over Europe and a rag “below” working in the stygian bowels of the boat. Whatever their posture, they all had no trace of warmth. It could be forgiven for the audience to lose interest long before the mystery unfolded. 1899 had all the humanity of an opaque glass.

Yet these are ultimately irrelevant details. Solving the conundrum of 1899’s cancellation requires looking beyond aesthetics and probing numbers. That’s because while subscribers watched a sizable 257 million hours of 1899, only 32 percent made it through the entire eight-episode season (according to figures from UK data analytics company Digital i). Compare that to 80 percent completing the mega-hit Squid Game, 73 percent passing Heartstopper, or 60 percent making the steampunk animation Arcane booze, and it’s no secret that 1899 found itself in the danger zone.

Sandman - Netflix

Sandman – Netflix

It was recently confirmed by Sandman writer Neil Gaiman that completion rates are more important to Netflix than top-notch views. He urged fans of the Netflix adaptation of the series to make sure they watch it to the end. He said it was expensive to make the Sandman. The more people binge on, the more likely it is that Netflix will be renewed.

“They’re looking at completion rates,” he said. “So people watch at their own pace. [i.e. not bingeing immediately] Appearance.”

The biggest mystery of all is why Netflix is ​​so obsessed with completion rates. One theory is that viewers who watch a series from start to finish are more likely to renew their subscriptions—after all, that’s all Netflix cares about. A place in the critical buzz and water cooler conversation is good. The bottom line, though, is that it’s all about a) viewers continuing to pay for Netflix fixes each month and b) attracting new subscribers.

Jenna Ortega on Wednesday - Netflix

Jenna Ortega on Wednesday – Netflix

“As far as I can tell, everything Netflix does depends on how it drives subscriber growth,” Rachel Shukert, creator of Baby Sitters Club, told Vulture. But he stressed that this is only his best guess: Netflix never tells producers or directors what goals need to be met for renewal. “I want to be very careful as there are so many assumptions, but I feel like Netflix’s internal metrics can change from month to month. Something that was good three months ago is suddenly not what they need.”

Either way, 1899, whose completion rate was less than half that of Squid Game, was against him. There’s also the issue that the landscape has radically changed since Dark’s debut in 2017. This year’s headline shows were all about show, from the roaring dragons in House of the Dragon to the howling plots in Amazon’s $1 billion Tolkien tranny The Rings. Strength.

It didn’t quite hit the iceberg with its impressive ratings and a loyal following of 1899. But what was once enough for a cult show to survive is no longer enough. As the blockbuster numbers released on Wednesday (one billion watch hours and growing) show, a show these days really needs to rise to be successful. In the end, 1899 couldn’t escape gravity. And so it was doomed to sink without a trace.

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